The unique gate towers high over the spirit-filled groves and sacred sanctum, and serves as a doorway to a holy place.
The massive torii gate reaches 32.2 meters towards the sky and serves as the landmark of the Omiwa Shrine. The name of this place is registered in the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest book composed over 1,300 years ago, making it one of the oldest shrines in Japan.
As the visitor passes the second gate, they will come upon the shrine’s flourishing grove of giant trees, and become embraced by a solemn yet refreshing atmosphere.
There is no main hall to match a mosque or church here, because the mountain itself, Mount Miwa, is considered the body of the shrine’s spirit. Visitors worship the spirit body of Mount Miwa from the altar. Thus, the shrine also embodies the ancient beliefs of the Japanese people who saw gods in nature.
The altar is impressive, and was rebuilt approximately 350 years ago during the Edo period by the Shogun Ietsuna Tokugawa. But beyond it is a holy place for which access is prohibited, and even the priests cannot normally enter. The grounds also feature a unique layout with three separate torii gates around the border.
The observation point affords a breathtaking view of ancient Japan, and the deep spiritual history of the mythical mountains.
The Omiwa Shrine Observation Point on the grounds affords a view of the entire site, including the great torii gate, as well as three Mountains of Yamato (Mt. Miminashi, Mt. Kagu, and Mt. Unebi) and Nijo Mountains, and Mt. Katsuragi and Mt. Ikoma in the distance.
These mountain ranges have served as the stage for many Japanese myths. The Nara Basin spread out before you, home to several former capital cities, is the birthplace of the Japanese state where the first emperor was enthroned. Here you can take in the entire stage of ancient Japan.
The ideal location also affords a close-up view of the spirit body Mount Miwa behind you. Poets have sung the praises of the well-formed cone shape of this subject of worship since ancient times, including in the Manyoshu (collection of 4,500 tanka poems), Japan’s oldest collection of poetry.
The beautiful view from this observation point provides a feeling of ancient Japan, surrounded by the sacred forest. The site is also included in the Nara Prefecture list of 100 greatest “Mahoroba” viewing spots (mahoroba is an ancient word meaning “most wonderful place”). This place is known for its magnificent cherry blossoms.
Find a special experience in the mountain of the spirit, encountering gods of sake, medicine, the arts, and wisdom.
Japan has long been a land of polytheism. The Omiwa Shrine, representing the earliest forms of worship that has been passed down, features 42 different small-sized secondary and tertiary shrines dedicated to various gods, in addition to the main god Omononushi Omikami. A walk through the spacious grounds will include encounters with numerous gods, such as gods of sake, medicine, arts, and wisdom.
Until approximately 100 years ago, the spirit body of Mount Miwa was a place that members of the general public were not allowed to enter. While it is now possible to enter today, it is still important for visitors to understand that the mountain is to be climbed as an act of worship, and not for leisure.
Eating, drinking and taking photographs are also prohibited. Those wishing to hike the mountain should check in at Sai Shrine, a secondary shrine, and foreign visitors will be accompanied by a Japanese guide unless they are fluent in Japanese.
However, this place is known as one where the influence of the gods is very strong, and if you follow the rules when you enter, you will have a special experience.